Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Life's casualties.

Well, so much for the promised fine weather. On the radio I heard someone commenting on the blue sky in Camden, I think it was. Here we have cloud and fine drizzle. To be fair, the newspaper does say that the country is split, summer in the south and back to winter in the north. That's the way it goes. 

It was fine and dry enough for a good run this morning but by the time I went out later to the post office it was decidedly damp and miserable. I needed to post a pair of pyjamas left behind by one of the young Spanish chess players. Initially when I asked for his address, the responsible adults in Spain responded by saying we didn't need to post the pyjamas. They know we are due to go back to Galicia some time soon and suggested we just took them with us. So I had to explain the hand-luggage-only travel philosophy that we follow. We really need every milligram of the 10 kilos each for stuff of our own. We have it down to a fine art and could probably run seminars an the art of travelling light! 

It is, however, very easy to leave stuff behind when you travel. We once had to contact a French hotel to retrieve a jacket carelessly left behind by a friend of ours when we were on holiday together. This was in the days before internet and so we had to find the phone number of the hotel in order to get in touch. I seem to remember we put a ten franc note in an envelope to cover postage. That is not as good as the German exchange teacher who once left half his summer wardrobe behind in our son's bedroom. He had brought shorts and tee shirts just in case the weather proved warm (no chance!) and never wore them. Our son discovered the clothing when he moved back into his room, having doubled up with his sibling for the duration of the visit. We were a little surprised at the amount of stuff left behind though. Did his suitcase not feel extremely light? 

For as long as I can remember there has been an old tramp (probably no older than I am, truth to tell) who could be seen wandering the length and breadth of Oldham town. I have seen him in all sorts of far flung spots. A friend of mine once found herself standing behind him in the post office, an uncomfortable place in the queue. Every few years you might notice that he had a new, or new-to-him, parka, soon rendered as disreputable as the rest of his attire. I never once saw him beg. He simply walked and walked and walked. And now, this morning, my daughter tells me that the news is "all over Facebook" that he has died. I must have the wrong friends as the news is not there on my Facebook. 

I wondered what happens about the funeral of someone like this but my daughter commented that she had heard that he came from quite a wealthy family. He even had a place in a care home but would not stay. She had heard that he went off the rails when his wife died. Now, that must have been years ago for he has been tramping the highways and byways of Oldham for nigh on twenty five years. 

What pushes people like him into a life choice like that? I remember an old, truly very old, lady who we used to see around our village years and years ago. A strange fey creature, she never spoke to anyone, managed a bit of a smile for children and would buy bits and pieces in the local shops. This was back when we had more shops than the Co-op which is all we have now. She lived in an old caravan, a tiny little place, parked up in the hills above the village. If you went hiking, someone was sure to point it out. And she lived there summer and winter, come rain or shine or even snow. Often she would be seen in snowy weather with the most inappropriate, broken footwear. She was another who was said to have come from a wealthy family. Rumour had it that she became reclusive and strange after her heart was broken but nobody seemed to know the truth of the matter. Rumour also had it that she had been cheated out of her fortune by a family member taking advantage of her distress. From time to time someone would organise a place in a residential care home but she always returned to her caravan where she died, years ago now. 

Another of life's casualties. 

It always seemed to me that her story could well have fitted into Laurie Lee's "Cider with Rosie, except that it was taking place some forty or fifty years after his tales. And yet we still seem to have people falling through the cracks of our society and simply not coping with life. Let's see one of the political parties put that right.

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